USG passes resolution to support Phillipine Human Rights Act, confirms new senator

A picture of a Macbook Pro screen showing a Zoom call with multiple people.
The TroyPhi resolution, unanimously passed by the Undergraduate Student Senate, calls on the organization and USC to support the Phillipine Human Rights Act that calls for the U.S. government to suspend security assistance to the Philippines. (Sarah Hendartono| Daily Trojan)

The Undergraduate Student Government unanimously passed the TroyPhi Resolution of Support during Tuesday night’s Senate meeting. The Senate also confirmed Jack Rasmussen as its newest senator and presented the organization’s reduced budget following cuts from the University.  

Written by USG Sens. Ruben Romeo and Alexis Areias with the help of Richelle Caday, the President of USC Troy Philippines, the resolution calls on USG and USC administrators to sign and endorse the Phillippine Human Rights Act — an American bill that calls on the U.S. government to suspend security assistance to the Philippines. The Act was written in response to the Anti-Terror Act, a broad-sweeping Pilipino law that criminalized public criticisms of the Pilipino Government as acts of terror.  

The resolution also calls on USG and the USC administration to “unequivocally stand with its Pilipinx students to promote their safety and inclusion.” 

Nearly 1,000 Pilipinx students attend USC and, due to the coronavirus pandemic, a portion of them are attending classes online from the Philippines. According to Romeo, USC’s Pilipinx American students have felt the Anti-Terror Act’s ramifications, and some students have family members who reside in the Philippines. 

“By putting the resolution through the Senate, this gets the administration to recognize that this is a problem that USG stands behind or that this is something that is important to the students,” Romeo said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “By creating that platform, student Pilipinx leaders [and] Pilipinx nationals can then help with the senators … talk with administration to really make sure that spaces on campus for USC students are safe and secure.”

In addition to passing the resolution, USG also swore in the newest member of its Senate, Jack Rasmussen, a junior majoring in business administration. Ramussen was sworn in by USG Associate Justice Ben Morain and joins the Senate with no previous USG experience. Rasmussen’s swearing in brings the Senate to full capacity following the resignations of former Vice President Rose Ritch and former Sen. Isabel Washington. Ritch was replaced by former Sen. Trinity Moore, which opened up one of the Senate vacancies. 

Rasmussen hopes that his background as a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon, a USC fraternity, will bring a diverse perspective to the Senate. 

“I think USG just in general is just not a very approachable organization,” Rasmussen said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “What I’ve found is that they don’t interact with the student body as well as they could and so I was thinking I offer a different viewpoint as someone who wouldn’t normally get involved in USG but wants to make a difference in diversity [and] mental health.”

Several senators provided updates on their goals and projects at the meeting. Among them was Sen. Lennon Wesley III, a junior majoring in business administration and philosophy, politics and law. Wesley said he is attempting to work with members of the USC administration, such as Vice President for Student Affairs Winston Crisp, to advance the interests of the University’s marginalized and low-income students. 

“A lot of the problems that are going on right now — whether that be [the coronavirus], California wildfires, social unrest — a lot of those things disproportionately affect lower income and minority students,” Wesley said in an interview with the Daily Trojan about his Minority and Low-Income Students Resolution. “It’s easy to forget about minority students and lower-income students because generally they’re the most underrepresented group amongst whatever population you take. All students are important, all students matter and their needs are important, but sometimes I feel it’s necessary to specifically address the needs of student populations that aren’t getting as much care and need more support than usual.”

President Gabe Savage also discussed the USG Fall 2020 Budget Proposal near the meeting’s end. In an interview with the Daily Trojan, Savage said USG’s funds were decreased by nearly 90% due to budget cuts from the University to reduce student fees. However, with the carry-over of funds from the previous academic year, the organization is experiencing a depletion of funds of around 77%. With mandatory allocations, including student stipends and staff salaries, USG in total has $363,600 total funds. 

According to Savage, USC issued a decrease in the $64 mandatory student fee issued each year to undergraduates enrolled at the University that is used for student programming. This year, only $13 from each student’s fee will be distributed to USG from the University’s new “Student Services” fee of $100. 

The budget cuts come after the University raised tuition for the 2020-21 academic year by 3.5% with tuition now totaling $59,260.